The Mercy Emerging Leaders Fellowship (MELF) is a 12-month program run by Mercy Global Action, the international justice arm of Mercy International Association. The Fellowship is an intercultural and intergenerational program that provides opportunities to establish strong links and networking across the Mercy World through international encounters, webinars, online learning, mentorship and research.
Four Australian women have completed the Fellowship across two cohorts of women. Gaby Kinsman from Adelaide recently returned from Dublin where the 2022-2023 cohort graduated from the program. Gaby is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at St Aloysius College Adelaide and Coordinator of Young Mercy Links South Australia, a post-school movement that provides a pathway for young people to connect with local Mercy communities and justice initiatives, form leadership skills, and spend time in shared action and reflection.
Reflecting on her experiences in the MELF program, Gaby shared “the connections made amongst the cohort are incredibly enriching, being able to share our unique perspectives, passions and leadership as well as experience immersions together in Cambodia, New York and Dublin has formed a very special bond.”
“This program has opened my eyes to the vastness of the Mercy World and how we can be more connected. I have been inspired by the guest speakers on our monthly webinars and immersion experiences. These women have each shared with us a piece of their leadership learning in the areas of justice they work in and have challenged us to think critically and create effective change.”
One of these speakers was Winifred Doherty, a Good Shepherd Sister who has been an NGO Representative to the United Nations for over 15 years. She presented ahead of the Fellows’ immersion in New York in March where they participated in the 67th Commission on the Status of Women. An awe-inspiring experience for Gaby, “Seeing over 8,000 women come together to share the realities of women’s lives and promote the empowerment of all women and girls was powerful. It was important to gain a deeper understanding of the intersectionality of global issues and impacts on women”.
This experience informed Gaby’s research project for the program which she presented in July at Mercy International Centre. Gaby’s project ‘Learning Beyond Borders’ looks at ways to pave pathways to lifelong learning for forcibly displaced people. Focusing on the inalienable right to higher education, the research highlights global and national barriers, using the Australian context as a case study. The culmination of Gaby’s project is a 1-hour workshop aimed at high school students addressing the root causes of forced displacement, responses by Mercy communities and effective strategies for advocacy. Gaby explained “my aim was to raise awareness – to stimulate thinking around the issue, inspire and empower young people to advocate with and for other young people who do not have equal educational pathways.”
After presenting her research project in Dublin, Gaby and the cohort were addressed by Professor of Religion and Development, Azza Karam at their graduation ceremony for the Mercy Emerging Leaders Fellowship. Gaby shared, “This year has been a transformative journey that has deepened my sense of what it is to lead with Mercy, listening to, honouring the dignity of and standing in solidarity with our Earth and all of her people.”